The Southwest Transplant Centre (SWTC) is a regional centre which offers a service for kidney patients across Plymouth, Cornwall and the South of Exeter. We provide both a deceased and living donor programme and currently follow up approximately 400 patients who have been transplanted. National statistics show we have one of the lowest waiting times in the country with most patients waiting around 18 months before receiving a kidney transplant.
COVID -19 presented the centre with many challenges; intensive care beds normally used to care for our donors were potentially needed for vulnerable patients requiring specialist treatment as a result of COVID-19. In addition newly transplanted patients who are given a high level of immunosuppression were extremely vulnerable if exposed to the virus.
In April following extensive discussions with other centres, our own referring centres and NHS Blood and Transplant we made the decision to temporarily close our programme in the best interest of our patients.
Two months later we began to tentatively re open the programme, activating patients back onto the transplant waiting list in phases with national guidance. Under the direction of Dr Imran Saif Director for Transplantation, the medical, surgical, immunology and nursing staff have worked incredibly hard to ensure the programme was reopened taking into consideration the safety of the patient. The transplant waiting list has been growing week by week and since reopening we have successfully transplanted 20 patients across our region which is an incredible achievement for all those involved in the programme and for those patients returning home with a new transplant and the prospect of not returning to or starting dialysis.
This has been a combined effort from many different services across the hospital, the renal unit (Mayflower ward) and support from the Trust management has ensured a safe environment for patients returning to the ward following surgery. Other services such as microbiology have been working hard in the background to swab patients and staff both routinely and in emergency situations to minimise the risk of infection from the virus. The support of the theatre and radiology departments has ensured the timely assessment and transplantation of patients.
Linda Boorer, Lead for Transplantation, would like to thank the on call team in conjunction with the immunology team in maintaining the on call rota during this period, still taking potential screening offers which although did not directly affect patients in our region they did benefit patients listed in other centres Also the transplant team have pro-actively managed both the suspension and re-activation of recipients in a short space of time and provided reassurance and information to anxious patients and their families.
Patient, Trudy said: I was sitting in the sunshine sipping a glass of white wine when I got the call. It was Wednesday, 29th July at 5.30pm. Owing to Covid19, the transplant list had been suspended. I had been reinstated on the newly opened list just two days beforehand. A rush of excitement and tears of joy ensued. I had been waiting for this call for almost three years owing to antibody issues.
“Arriving at the Mayflower Ward, firstly I was tested for Covid19. I am so grateful to the team who operated on me and everyone who continues to take care of me post-op. The high levels of attentive care surely must be the best and is administered in the most testing of Covid times. In the early days I had several clinical interventions daily, where Covid regulations were strictly adhered to throughout. What more could I ask for? In these dark Coronavirus days, to date I am one of the patients at Mayflower who unexpectedly has been given this exceptional life enhancing opportunity.”
Patient, Clive Sandercock and his wife Julie have also shared their feedback of being able to have telephone appointments during the COVID period:
“For us it is a 3 hour round journey to attend Derriford plus our time in the hospital,” said Julie. “It has worked really well Clive having his bloods done at home by our District Nurse and then we get them taken to Launceston and then onto Derriford. A weekly appointment is then made for a call from one of the Renal Team to discuss the bloods and alter medications if necessary. This has obviously cut down on the stress of us having to attend the hospital weekly for several months. We must stress that the Renal Team have been excellent throughout this difficult time and someone is always available to speak to should we have any problems.
“We think this is the way forward to cut patients having to attend hospital for appointments that can be dealt with by telephone. We certainly are happy if this continues. We would also like to thank everyone in the Renal Unit for your care and support throughout.”
If you would like to know more about transplantation in your local area please visithttps://www.odt.nhs.uk/transplantation/kidney/kidney-transplant-units/
If you are interested in living donation please contact either Gemma McCullough or Philip Isaac the Living Donor Coordinators on 01752 439955